June 29th, 2010


Books 31 and 32

31. “A Faraway Island,” written by Annika Thor and translated by Linda Schenck. 2010 Batchelder Award winner. A touching book. Two sisters, Stephie, 12, and Nellie, 7, are sent to Sweden as part of a children's refugee program to escape the Nazi occupation and repression in Austria. Nellie adapts to her family quickly, embracing the language and her adopted parents. Stephie struggles with trying to fit in, while maintaining her Jewish and Austrian identity. Stephie also has an uneasy relationship with her strict adoptive mother, whom she calls Aunt Marta, as well as problems with the school bully. Above all, she worries about her parents and wants to reunite with them. Or, try to get them to Sweden. By the end of the book, of course, it's obvious the troubles in Europe are not only going to last longer than most people initially thought, but they are spreading. This is the first in a series of translated books. The characters are well-rounded, and most are sympathetic. It strikes me as an honest look at what the children probably faced. The author used real-life stories from children in similar situations.

32. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt. Journalist Berendt writes this mostly first-person account of his time in Savannah, Georgia and the people he meets. What an eccentric and colorful bunch, too! This book is the perfect example of truth being stranger than fiction. The book is divided into two sections. The first is mostly how Berendt comes to live part-time in Savannah, and the people he meets, including a charming con-artist, a feisty drag queen, and an assortment of Savannah's established society. Much of the story centers on Jim Williams, a wealthy antiques dealer who is put on trial for the murder of Danny Handsford (the trials -- yes, trials, there were four of them -- making up Part 2). "Midnight" breaks a couple of the rules with writing murder stories -- not starting out with the murder, for example -- but it works. Part one is so engaging and, at times, humorous that I found myself not minding the lengthy exposition before what most would probably consider the meat of the story. But the stories of the residents and the every day was just as interesting.
El Corazon

181. Archangel

by Gerald Seymour

Started: June 22, 2010
Finished: June 28, 2010

I didn't care much for the first fifty or so pages of this 1980s thriller but once the story got going I guess it was entertaining enough. It's not great literature but there's nothing wrong with a bit of dumb, mindless entertainment at times. 352 pages. Grade: C+
Total # of Books Read in 2010: 181
Total # of Pages Read in 2010: 45,932
almost like a daydream

Mark Frost's "The List of Seven"

Title: The List of Seven
Author: Mark Frost
Publication Date: 1993
Pages: 401

From the back of the book:

As the city of London slumbers, there are those in its midst who conspire to rule the world through the darkest and most nefarious means. These seven, seated in positions of extraordinary power and influence, marshal forces from the far side to aid them in their fiendish endeavor.


In the aftermath of a bloody seance and a terrifying supernatural contact, a courageous young doctor finds himself drawn into a malevolent conspiracy beyond human comprehension.


The future is not safe, as a thousand-year reign of pure evil is about to begin, unless a small group of stalwart champions can unravel the unspeakable mysteries behind a crime far more terrible than murder.

My thoughts: Did you see the 2009 Sherlock Holmes movie and wish that the super natural-esque things that went on were actually real and not just concoctions of science? If you did, then The List of Seven is definitely the book for you (even if you didn't like the movie, but love Holmes, read this). Certainly, when I picked up the book, I thought it sounded a little silly. I wanted to read the sequel first. Thankfully, this book didn't disappoint.

The story focuses around a young Arthur Conan Doyle, who is on the run from a "Dark Brotherhood" that seems to think his recent manuscript is a little too similar to their plans for comfort. They spare no expenses trying to track him down and kill him in order to stop the manuscript from being published. He meets Jack Sparks, a character that just screams Sherlock Holmes in all of his characteristics. Looking at Doyle and Sparks, you can see how Frost used the well-known Watson and Holmes dynamic to shape this partnership. Reviews on the back of the book say that the plot drives along like a speeding train, and it most certainly does--but in all the best ways possible. Filled with Holmsian logic and disguises, Frost does an excellent job shadowing the original canon.

Strong characters and outrageous leaps of deduction fill each chapter. It's hard not to love Doyle and Sparks, mirrors of the Watson and Holmes duo, as well as the twins Barry and Larry that follow Sparks and the late addition of Eileen as a strong and clever woman (not quite Irene Adler status, but close to it). The story takes the reader on a tour of England in the late 19th century, and Frost leaves more than a few interesting tidbits of food-for-thought along the way (some of which I'm not entirely too sure are true, but spark an interesting line of thought).

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Long review short, if you're looking for a good period mystery-thriller (I was when I went to the book store), go for this. It keeps you turning the pages, and going "Okay, I'll put it down at the end of the chapter" (enough though the chapters are long). If you like Sherlock Holmes--the movie, the books, what have you--you'll most certainly love this book. Familiar characters appear with different faces, but it's very clear on how Mark Frost made their influences on Doyle in order to influence his creation of Sherlock Holmes. There is no end to the suspense, and certainly no end to the supernatural that follows along behind Sparks and Doyle.
El Corazon

182. The Alcoholic; 183. Real Photo Postcards...

The Alcoholic
by Jonathan Ames and Dean Haspiel

Started: June 28, 2010
Finished: June 29, 2010

My only previous exposure to Ames had been a few episodes of Bored to Death, which I found to be very smug and condescending. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this graphic novel. It was a well-done story with a real eye for conveying the crazy thoughts of the alcoholic mind, something I have much experience with. 136 pages. Grade: A-
Real Photo Postcards: Unbelievable Images From the Collection of Harvey Tulcensky
edited by Laetitia Wolff

Started/Finished: June 29, 2010

I wasn't too impressed with most of Tulcensky's collection of early twentieth century real photo postcards. Many of them just seemed fairly bland to me. I guess we just have different tastes. 207 pages. Grade: C
Total # of Books Read in 2010: 183
Total # of Pages Read in 2010: 46,275

bookworm friends

I was on here a couple years ago, and it started my first year of counting my books and keeping record of them. I haven't been able to do if for a while on here, but I thought I'd try it again. I'll just write down a few at a time until I get caught up. I look forward to hearing about the good books the rest of you bite into.

1. Eating The Dinosur- Chuck Klosterman. A bit more scattered than his other books, but still him. Gave me a laugh or two.
2. Running With Scissors- Augusten Burroughs. Very interesting read. This guy has been through some weird times. But be prepared to be disgusted at a couple turns as well.
3. Pride And Prejudice And Zombies- Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. I know this is old news. I was pleased with how much it followed the storyline. I had assumed the similarties would atop shortly after the title.
4. Into The Wild- Jon Krakauer. Thank God for heating, airconditioning, and fast food!
5. Jay's Journal- Anonymous, Edited by Dr. Beatrice Sparks. Got under my skin. Definitely couldn't sleep that night!

Books 10 & 11

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Brothers Fat Charlie and Spider are reunited by their father's death. Spider's charm, trickery, and tendency to make passes on his brother's fiance begin to peak Fat Charlie's nerves. Fun, magic, and conflict ensue.

The characters in this book are wonderful. I smiled as I read about Anansi-- an amazing, personable character. The antagonist is fabulously villainous and Spider and Fat Charlie's relationship evolves into an unexpectedly touching one.

This was a re-read. I loved it even more the second time.


A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Gemma attends a girls' school in London where, along with the help of her friends Felicity, Pippa, and Ann, she slowly uncovers the secrets of Mary Dowd. These secrets threaten to cause trouble for Gemma and her friends. Bray's book is dark, touching, and engrossing.

The first one hundred pages didn't fully engross me. After that point, Gemma noticeably grows up and evolves as a character. She makes heart-warming friendships. The girls face very real, relate-able disappointments and, at times, venture a bit too far to amend them. The action is suspenseful, heart-breaking, and scary at times.*

*Scary barring the fact that I'm kind of a wuss. Eerie might be a better word-- especially for those that aren't easily spooked.